Coda: A Review

Coda by Emma TrevayneMusic is a highly regulated device in the distant future of the Web. The Corp uses it as an opiate for the masses to keep the public under control.

In a world where music is a drug, playing music is illegal. But it’s also the only thing that keeps Anthem sane as he struggles to navigate the Corp’s authoritarian regime while supporting his family and caring for his dying father and his younger twin brother and sister.

Eventually, music kills everyone. Overdoses are common. Certain tracks can relieve pain or destroy your eardrums. But usually death from drugged music is a waiting game–a wasting illness. It isn’t supposed to be sudden or unexpected.

Until it is.

Everything is changing. As Anthem learns more about the Web and the Corp he’ll have to decide what he stands for and who he wants to be in Coda (2013) by Emma Trevayne.

Coda is Trevayne’s first novel. It will be followed in 2014 by a sequel/companion called Chorus.

Trevayne has created a compelling and fascinating world in Coda. She also asks hard questions about revolution and the price of freedom making some parts of Coda especially heavy.

With so many details and terms to build this new world, the beginning of the novel can be confusing as readers have a lot of details to parse and absorb. While Anthem is a great narrator and a strong character, his treatment of his friend Haven (the girl he loves) during the story was incredibly frustrating. As Anthem becomes embroiled in a plot to bring down the Corp, he inexplicably shuts Haven out in order to protect her. Aside from being completely counterintuitive given Haven’s personality, it was deeply problematic that the only well-developed female character in the novel* needed to be shielded for most of the story.

More frustrating is that despite Haven’s complete loyalty, Anthem soon doubts and distrusts her. This trend comes up a lot in books since it’s an effective plot device and a good way to keep things moving. At the same time–when so often in real life trust is a tangible, immovable thing–it’s incredibly annoying to meet a character that is so easily swayed by circumstance.

Eventually all of the frustrating things do resolve themselves to make Coda a decent if not completely satisfying read. (Trevayne’s ending is very well-handled and very realistic but not always very uplifting. You have been warned.) Music lovers and musicians will definitely enjoy this clever premise. Similarly, readers looking for a fresh dystopia to get lost in or a thoughtful meditation on revolution and rebellion will find a lot to enjoy here.

*To be fair Anthem has a sister but she is a child with a marginal role and we learn very little about her or the other female characters in Coda. This might change in the sequel, Chorus, since Anthem’s little sister is the protagonist.

Possible Pairings: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

You can also read my exclusive interview with Emma Trevayne starting Monday.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*

Beautiful Decay: A Review

Beautiful Decay by Sylvia LewisWhen Ellie Miller touches things–people, furniture, paper–they begin to rot. Her bare hands can leave trails of mold of spawn infectious bacteria. She doesn’t know why she has this condition or how to control it. All she knows is that she is dangerous and, as far as everyone is concerned, has an “immune disorder.” Right.

Compared to her anti-septic house and terrified parents, school could almost be considered a relief. At least it could if Ellie wasn’t simultaneously bullied and ostracized. Luckily, the Internet can keep Ellie’s secrets so she is able to have online friends like Mackenzie who loves her unconditionally. Although Mackenzie also doesn’t know the details of Ellie’s condition. No one does.

Except a new guy shows up at school and he does seem to know about Ellie. Instead of being afraid or dismissive, Nate acts like he wants to know her. Nate seems to recognize what she can do and maybe even know what how to control it, that is if Ellie can even stand to talk to him in Beautiful Decay (2013) by Sylvia Lewis.

Beautiful Decay is an interesting take on the world of necromancers and their rarer counterparts viviomancers.* There is definitely a lot more to both Nate and Ellie than raising the dead or hanging out with zombies.

A slow start only serves to underscore just how much action there is in the latter parts of the story as Ellie learns more about herself and begins to connect more with Nate and Mackenzie. Although the pacing is off–the story could easily have started fifty pages in and added somewhat more closure at the end–the plot is solid and fairly entertaining.

That said, descriptions of the decomposition left in Ellie’s wake is disgusting. Beautifully written but also very gross. While it was a turn off for me at times, it will likely be very appealing to readers who might otherwise shy away from a book that hints at romance (or has a female narrator). References to the Harry Potter fandom, recent Marvel movies and Tumblr might also draw readers in. These elements also have the potential to date the novel fairly quickly.

Beautiful Decay is a thoughtful, often clever novel that hints at more to come about Ellie, Mackenzie and Nate.

*According to this book anyway. I have no idea if viviomancers are a real thing. Although it would be cool if they turned up in other books.

Possible Pairings: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Alchemy by Margaret Mahy, The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel, Pivot Point by Kasie West

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*